Forgive them

IMG_1482“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

They do not know what they are doing? Well, no they didn’t know exactly, they were too blinded by their sin. They were too wrapped up in their own self-importance, their own sense of control and fear to even begin to fathom what they were doing. They…the ones who killed Jesus. The only question is who are “they”?

It is so easy to name others; easy to blame others. Caiaphas, the priest, the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes all conspired to falsely accuse Jesus. Herod turned his back on God, Jesus and the Jewish people. Even the crowd was swayed to call for the release of Barabbas and demand Jesus be killed. Pilate had opportunity to free Jesus but chose to order the crucifixion of an innocent man. The Roman soldiers followed the execution order with no regard for Jesus’ life. They all played their part and conspired against Jesus. It seems there was no shortage of people to blame, all those who wanted to keep Jesus’ kingdom from infringing on theirs.

And yet where are we when Jesus’ kingdom infringes on ours? Surely our sinfulness led Jesus to the cross. When we look at the definition of “they” we have to begin by looking in the mirror. As the apostle John teaches us, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1John 1:8). Jesus was innocent of all charges made against him. Yet because of our sin, he endured the pain, humiliation and shame of the cross. In essence, because of our age old rebellion, we too are numbered among those who crucified Jesus.

Surely Jesus could have cursed the sinners who nailed him to the tree. Surely he should have raged at us for the evil we do, the evil we do both knowing and unknowing. Yet, Jesus has compassion. With words uttered from the cross, he intercedes for us. Jesus begs his Father to forgive them, forgive us, “they don’t know what they are doing.”

The same compassion of God that brought Christ to earth, to serve God’s people, is the same compassion that compelled him to the cross. It is the power of God’s love that brings incredible, unbelievable grace for those whose sin made such sacrifice necessary. God’s compassion echoes through the centuries as Christ’s words are heard by all people who, through sin, participate in the crucifixion of our Lord.

Today, compassion cries out yet again. Today we are reminded of the victory of Jesus over sin and death. “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). For our sake, compassion cries out from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Photo: The shrouded crucifix at the altar – Union Lutheran Church, Salisbury, NC

Do This

IMG_2884And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Mark 14:22

In the night in which Jesus was handed over, he prepared his disciples for their days and life ahead. There is no way they could have known the events that were about to unfold; that Jesus would be arrested and put to death. There is also no way that they could know that at their master’s darkest hour, they would all abandon him. However, Jesus knew this. He knew exactly what the coming hours would bring; pain, agony, death. Jesus knew the fear and anxiety they would feel, the sorrow at the loss of their master, and the grief that would pierce their hearts. And so Jesus prepared his friends. Jesus gave of himself once more in the breaking of the bread and pouring of the cup.

Tonight, we also need such preparation. Burdened by the weight of our sin, we come to the table where Christ offers us this same bread and cup. As we stretch out our empty hands filled with the shortcomings of human life, God lifts the burden of sin and places life, love and grace in our very palm. Eating this bread and drinking this wine is the means by which Jesus comes to us spiritually and physically in order that we may feel the power of God’s love. The bread that is broken and wine that is poured provide forgiveness of our sins and nourishment for our faith so that we may live for God alone.

This is not a memorial meal. It is not simply a means by which to remember how Jesus offered himself up for the sake of God’s people. It is real just as God’s grace is real. It is physical just as Christ’s body and blood is physical. Jesus continues to offer his body and blood because he knows we need it. He feeds us the bread of life because without it we have no life in us. This is the power of God’s love made manifest through Christ Jesus, that he would send his only begotten Son to die for the sake of his people.

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it. Again after supper he took the cup, gave thanks and gave it for all to drink. Even as we gather and hear these words again, our Lord Jesus comes into our midst, stands among us and says, “Given and shed for you…Do this.”

Prepare

man-prayingAnd [Jesus] sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” Mark 14:13-15

Wednesday of the week we call Holy, the day to make final preparations, the day when the people of God make themselves ready for the service of Triduum, the Three Days. How do we prepare? What things are left undone? We have waved the palms; greeted our King and welcomed Christ into our midst.  We have heard the words of his Passion. Many preparing for baptism have studied at the feet of their shepherd. The significance of the Sacrament of the Altar has been made known to those who will receive it for the first time. What is left to prepare?

The Three Days serve as our opportunity to once again enter into the mysteries of faith and be strengthened by the power of Christ victory. Through them we ask God to again mold our minds to be the mind of Christ. We ask that God make us free from the stain of sin. That he feeds us the bread of life and nourishes us so that we might live as Jesus lived; loving God and neighbor, welcoming the strangers within our midst; serving the needs of others and remaining faithful to God’s desires for his people.

Today is a day of preparation. It is a day for the people of God to hear and follow the Word of God. It is the advent of the Triduum; the holiest days. People of God, prepare yourselves. Read the scriptures. Give thanks for God’s presence in your life. Ask that God lead you in spirit to worship throughout this time that you too may enter into the mysteries of faith and experience anew the saving power of Jesus’ victory upon the cross and witness the glory of his resurrection.

Holy God, Prepare us for these Three Days. Grace us with your presence. Gather us for worship that we may hear your Word and receive your grace. Send us as witnesses so others may know the power of your love through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Great Expectations

Why do you worry[Jesus said], “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

We live in a world filled with expectations. Children are expected to do well in school. College graduates expect to embark on a high paying career. Investors expect their portfolio will pay huge dividends. Life is filled with expectations, some are met, many others are not.

God also has expectations. He expects that humanity will obey his law. He expects that people will worship him as the One True God. God expects his people will love him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and that we will love our neighbor as ourselves. And God expects us to share our faith and bear fruit for his kingdom. Again, these expectations are too seldom realized.

It seems as though there is a disconnect, a wide gap between God’s expectations and those of humanity. Our sinful selves have strayed from God’s goodness and decided to live according to our own expectations. People tend to live for themselves more than for God. We strive to be self-sufficient, personally secure and financially independent. The farther we stray from God’s expectations, the more we fall short; our best effort isn’t good enough. In the end, our sense of expectation is replaced with worry. Why? Simple, our expectations don’t match God’s.

God is the creator and owner of all things. Jesus teaches us that out of his generosity, God supplies everything we need to live a fruitful and abundant life. Even as God cares and provides for the plants and animals, how much more will God care and provide for those created in his image and likeness? The truth is God provides for his people and expects we will acknowledge him for it. As we do, we realize the tremendous blessing it is to be called “Child of God.”

The world expects people will live a certain way, living for self rather than for God and neighbor. God’s expectations are much different, and when we fail to live accordingly, God supplies his grace which is sufficient in every need. For just as our failure to meet God’s expectations weighs heavy on our hearts, even greater is God’s desire to provide for his people.

Fear

mark6-50But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:30

We have all heard the saying, “Be aware of things that go bump in the night.” When it is dark, things are supposed to be peaceful. When we are at rest, things are supposed to be quiet. At the end of the day when we have settled in we do so having commended the day to God. We are through for the night; it’s time to sleep. But then something goes “bump.”

Actually, things go “bump” throughout the day and night. There are so many things that cause us to be afraid. I’m not talking about the sort of fear one feels while watching a scary movie, I’m speaking about real fear. The test results come back and the doctor wants to meet with you privately. Your employer calls you to his/her office following a meeting with his manager or a client. There are so many instances in life that cause us to experience real fear. “How will I provide for my family?” “Is it treatable?”

In our text, the twelve were crossing the Sea of Galilee at night when there arose a violent storm. Notice the text before us doesn’t say the disciples were afraid of the storm. They were able bodied seamen, fishermen by trade. The twelve knew how to handle a boat even in rough weather. Given the wind and waves, things were difficult enough. But then, something went “bump.”

In the midst of facing the storm they saw a human figure walking toward them on the water. People don’t walk on water, let alone during a violent storm. This vision caused them great fear; scripture tells us “they were terrified.” Yet, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.” Hearing Jesus’ voice, Peter calls out telling him that if it really were his Lord, “Command me to come out on the water.” For the people of God there comes a point when fear must give way to faith, and faith leads us to trust and believe.

Peter got out of the boat; he walked on the water with Jesus. Only when fear took his eyes away from his Lord did Peter begin to sink. It is the same for people today. Through faith, God equips us to face our fears. Trusting in Jesus we can walk with our Lord through trials and adversity. Only when fear overcomes us, only as doubt takes our focus away from God can the powers of the world defeat us. Yet God’s love is so sure, his grace so powerful, even in such instances we can call out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus says, “Take heart; it is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Lord God, you are the one who saves your people. Rescue me from the things that go “bump” in my life. Give me the sure and certain hope of your love. Help me to take heart and know you are with me always. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

Photo credit:  carolinasnalc.org